How to Get an Interpreting Quote 2020

Quoting Projects:
What a Language Agency Needs to Know  



  • Translation is writing from one language to another.

  • Interpreting is speaking such as in meetings and conferences. As an oral process, interpreting is usually face-to-face but also can be done over the phone or by video.

FYI, Chinese is written either in Simplified characters for China or Traditional characters for Taiwan, Hong Kong and the US. Its spoken dialects include Mandarin, Cantonese and 500 more.

If you are requesting a quote for TRANSLATING, as much as possible please let us know:

WHICH languages (and dialects) you need. If you are not sure, please tell us which country your audience is from. Knowing needed dialects such as Argentine Spanish or Egyptian Arabic is essential
to source the right interpreter. If you don’t know the dialect, just please tell us the language.

WHAT the subject of your event is. It is essential to source interpreters specialized in your subject terminology to ensure an accurate rendering and smooth communication.

WHEN your interpreting event is scheduled. Dates are very important. The sooner you book your event, the better. Great interpreters are rare and they are very busy. The earlier you book them, the
better chance we have for finding the best qualified professionals suitable for your event.

HOW LONG your event will last. Is it over one week or a few hours?

WHERE your event will take place. Location is very important. It is easier to find excellent interpreters in San Francisco then in Loveland, Ohio. We always try to find interpreters as close as possible to your
event city so they do not have to be imported from far away.

Special needs – Will you require any interpreting equipment such as microphones, headsets or interpreting booths?

In general, interpreting happens onsite at your selected location. Interpreting can be simultaneous, consecutive, whispering, over the phone or by video – depending on your needs. Not sure what you need? Please provide us as many details as possible and we’ll suggest the best interpreting solution for you.

Pricing & Interpretation Timing

As we launch our 25th year in business, we are pleased to present an e-newsletter series of 25 Language Tips as well as examples of some of our most interesting projects.

1 – Be careful when comparing prices. Is the value equal?

Recently, a law firm came to us for a quote to translate its client’s Trust documents into Russian. Fortunately, they called to say that our price was too high. When we asked what some of the comparable quotes were, we quickly discovered that they were comparing apples to grapefruits.

The lower prices they had obtained were for one translator only. As a full-service, professional language agency, we quote with a method called TEP: initial Translation, Editing and Proofing.

To maintain accuracy, the Editing phase (called Revising in UK English) is critical.  This provides a second professionally trained translator to check the work of the first as a quality-assurance review.

The editor ensures that the translation is correctly acculturated (such as with the grammar patterns of your target market in Chile vs. the grammar patterns of Spain); that the nuances and expressions are rendered accurately for that country; and that the terminology is appropriate for your industry or your region. With Editing, we can guarantee accuracy.

The Proofreading step is for the editor or another translator to check for correct spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting. For example, where English would write Caution! with no space between characters, French would write Attention ! with a space after the word.

Moral of the story: Do not assume. Always ask your language agency about major price discrepancies. They may see elements in the other’s process that are not obvious to you … or offer far greater value.

And if your project is sensitive and accuracy is critical as in legal contracts, why would you want to rely on only one translator to get it right?

2 – Remember that consecutive interpreting takes twice as long.

Consecutive interpreting is where the speaker speaks and then is silent while the interpreter interprets. Simultaneous interpreting is where the interpreter interprets while the speaker is speaking (as at the UN).

If you want consecutive interpreting for a two-hour meeting, remember that:

  1. your meeting time will have to double (to four hours) if all points in your presentation must be covered; or
  2. you will have to cut your presentation in half if the time frame cannot be extended.


One of our very first projects almost 25 years ago was from a US client called Storybook Heirlooms. They sold girls’ clothing through a catalog that they wanted us to translate and lay out in Japanese. All was find until we came to the “Refer a Friend” section.

The English original had four referral blocks for name, address and contact info.  But “four” in Japanese and Chinese sounds very close to the word for “death.” Therefore, Japanese presents four of nothing. Instead, we advised the client to have three referral blocks or five. Had we not caught this critical cultural issue, the client would have received almost no Japanese referrals.

Thank you for helping us to become one of the oldest and most experienced language agencies in the world. Please contact us for your next ethnic or global expansion needs.

Expansion, Interpreter Costs, & Speaking

Whether you are new to or very familiar with Auerbach International, to celebrate our 25th year in business we are pleased to present an e-newsletter series of 25 Language Tips. This will also include examples of some of our most interesting projects.

3 – Factor in Language Expansion

The most common European languages require more words than English to express the same concept. For French, Spanish and Portuguese, it is about 20% more. For Dutch, German and Russian, it is about 10% more.

Professional layout artists can often adjust the size of the letters or reduce the margins to make a translation fit if a layout must remain, say, eight pages. But when you have a brochure or manual with very full text with small margins – and if you cannot expand your page count – where are these extra words to go?

Please consider this language expansion ratio when preparing your English versions … or design them with ample blank space to allow for additional words.

The same principle applies to localizing commercials, CDs or movies that usually must remain within say 30 seconds, 4 minutes or 2 hours. If the narrator is speaking quickly, where does your professional language agency put all those additional dubbed or subtitled words?

In either case, one solution is to cut the English text by 10 or 20% so that the abridged translations will expand into the allotted time. Another solution is to use shorter words such as “need” instead of “requirement” whenever possible. But here too, if your corporate writers or filmmakers considered global versions at the outset, their localized productions would be less complicated and less costly to implement.

4 – Interpreters:  Why Costs Should Not Count

In the language business, translators are like doctors and interpreters are like surgeons; professional linguists usually start out with the same training but then branch off to specialize either in written or spoken communication.

While translators (of written documents) can take time to research a specific term or speak with colleagues to clarify a meaning, interpreters (of spoken conversations) do not have that luxury. They literally must think on their feet in meetings, in court or at conferences and render the target language very quickly and often spontaneously.

As with everything else, interpreters come in all qualities. Those with the most experience and specialized expertise such as for diplomatic negotiations about agricultural import tariffs command higher rates.

Just as you would not entrust your BMW to a Volkswagen repair shop, why would you want to risk your business meeting, court case or conference to an under-qualified interpreter with limited knowledge of your industry terminology? In essence, what is it worth to you to avoid mistakes and ensure accuracy? That should be the main criterion by which you evaluate interpreting rates. Is the lowest priced person worth the risk?

5 – You Can Speak Any Time in Any Language

A lot of business and communication is lost because you cannot speak the language of your prospective customer, patient or foreign-born employee. But by using a 24/7 telephonic interpreting service, you can.

Through this medium, you receive a toll-free number, a PIN code and a menu of say 150 languages and dialects. You simply press the language code and within seconds you are connected to a telephonic interpreter.

If you are ringing a limited-English speaker, you simply put the call in conference mode and hold a three-way conversation. If the limited English speaker is in the same room, you can simply put the call on speakerphone. In this way, you can gain the sale or communicate your concerns and demonstrate that the limited-English speaker is important to you.


At 5pm on a Friday summer night, we got a call from a political consultant in New York who was advising the opposition Prime Ministerial candidate for the following month’s general election in Italy. He desperately needed to put his PowerPoint presentation and position paper into Italian for a phone meeting with counterparts in Rome at 8am the next morning. He asked if we could do it.

Out of curiosity, I asked why he came to us instead of to local language agencies in New York. “Because,” he replied, “it’s 8pm here and all agencies are closed. You have a great reputation and I figured you in California might still be open.” –which we were.

Knowing that this would be one of many miracle deliveries we have performed over the years, I said that we could do it. “In the meantime,” I advised, “go enjoy the remaining daylight in Central Park and then go for dinner. Come back to your office around 11pm your time, and we’ll have it done for you.”

So where would we find a team of Italian translators who could do a rush job within three hours on a Friday night? In one place where it was still daytime: Hawaii. Just as we were three hours earlier than our new client in New York, we knew that our team in Honolulu was three hours earlier than we were in California. So we arranged for our translation-editing-proofing team to postpone their afternoon surfing and produce this job for our New York client. Which they did. They delivered to us, we delivered to him and everyone was happy. Except for our client-consultant’s political candidate. He lost his election after all.


As one of the most experienced language agencies in the world, we thank you for the opportunity to serve your company’s ethnic or global expansion needs…though we do not suggest waiting until the last minute to submit your projects!

If You Missed Tips #1-2:  See Pricing and Interpretation Timing

How to Get an Interpreting Quote

Quoting Projects:
What a Language Agency Needs to Know  

The Fundamentals:
  • Translating deals with written text (manuals, brochures, PPTs, software strings, etc);
  • Interpreting is for spoken projects (trials, depositions, meetings, conferences);
  • Localization is for websites or software apps (which often require changes to the code).
Q:“Can you provide a translator for my meeting with Japanese clients?”
A: “We think you mean an interpreter. If so, yes we can. Is your meeting here or in Japan?”
The Basics:
  • Interpretations are priced on a rate per hour for spoken communication. Longer sessions are priced by the half-day or the full day.
  • Most interpreters have a two-hour minimum per session.
  • A language service will strive to source a local interpreter in your destination city, and he/she may charge travel time or mileage fees to the venue in addition to hourly rates.
  • A full-service agency can provide local, professionally trained and subject-specific interpreters in any country to accommodate your overseas travel.
  • If you want a specific interpreter to accompany you on a trip, be prepared to pay his/her travel costs, hotel room and meals.

FYI: Interpreters are at the top of the language industry. While translators can consult with others or research terminology in their written texts, interpreters literally must think on their feet, know your terminology, the presenter’s spoken dialect, and how to phrase your words or concepts within a very minimal timeframe. It is therefore essential for businesses or government to hire a professionally trained, qualified interpreter, not an amateur.

1.What kind of project do you have?: a trial?, deposition?, in-house meeting?, seminar? conference?, multiple break-out sessions running at the same time? Please discuss this with your agency since each case follows a different scenario.If you have a legal project, must your interpreter be:

  • Court-certified?
  • Federally certified?
2.For what languages and dialects? Brazilian Portuguese? Mandarin? Cantonese? etc. If you don’t yet know the dialects, at least state the language(s).
3.What is the format of your session?a. Consecutive?: Here, the presenter speaks and is quiet while the interpreter interprets. Then the listener replies and the interpreter renders the listener’s speech to the presenter. Note: This format doubles the time of your session.

b. Simultaneous?: In this case, the interpreter interprets while the speaker is speaking, as at the United Nations.

  • Will you want sound booths? If so, for how many language teams?
  • Will you want whisper equipment (interpreters’ transmitters) and participants’ headsets? If so, for how many people and how many languages?
4.What date(s) and duration? A language service can give you a rough quote assuming an interpreter’s availability. Qualified interpreters’ schedules book up very quickly, and they will tentatively hold your advanced dates only for a short time. The sooner you know your exact dates, the better. You must contract first before the language agency can lock your dates with the interpreter.
5.What Time? Interpreters book:

  • morning sessions (say 8 am to noon)
  • afternoon sessions (say 1pm to 5 or 6 pm); and
  • night sessions (say 7pm to 10pm).

Accordingly, interpreters can give half-day or hourly rates. Please do not schedule your session crossing the lunch hours (say from 11 am to 1 pm). In that case, interpreters cannot take other appointments that day and can charge you a full-day rate for a lunch-time session.

6.Where? If you know the specific hotel, conference center or venue address, that’s best. If not, in what city will it be? Interpreters’ rates in Kansas differ from those in New York.
7.What subject? What is your session / trial / deposition / conference about? Your language service needs to know the level of technical terminology the interpreter will need.
  • If it’s a conference, will you be able to provide background info or a reference website in advance? That helps the interpreter to prepare specific technical terminology.
8.How many interpreters? Imagine a week-long conference in five languages with sessions running all day. In this case, two interpreters for the same language and the same subject specialty are usually needed. Intense simultaneous interpreting causes rapid mental burnout. And when interpreters get tired, their speech can get garbled, dropped or misunderstood. That’s not the result you want.

Two interpreters per language work as a team: one on for 20-30 minutes and one off for 20-30 minutes. This alternation prevents burnout. But it means that you will need to budget for two interpreters per language, not just one.

9.Advanced notice: It is extremely helpful to have at least two weeks’ advanced notice of your needed dates. Language agencies do not enjoy calls at 5 pm the night before your session. While expert agencies can usually fulfill emergencies, those make the agency staff prematurely gray and they might have to charge you extra for hair dye.

Knowing what questions to ask in advance can save you a lot of time. Especially for rush projects, many days are lost when assistants or contractors need to go back to their bosses or clients for clarifications. A professional agency should always be willing to help you but will ask you the questions above before it can fulfill your request.

6 Common Myths about Interpreters

Six Common Myths Debunked

Interpreters are not all the same!

Since most people from the President to the Media confuse the terms, let’s start at the beginning.

When rendering concepts from one language to another,

  • Translation deals with written communication; and
  • Interpreting deals with spoken communication, whether for presentations, depositions, or personal or public meetings with non-English speakers. And interpreting is full of misperceptions.


  1. If you can speak a language, you can translate or interpret it. Simple questions like “Where is the station?” are far different from knowing complex terminology and sentence structure in the worlds of Business, Law, Academia, etc.While translators may have time to research unknown terms and consult with colleagues, interpreters must react immediately to the conversation. And simultaneous or diplomatic interpreters, acting in real time as at the UN, are at the top of the linguistic field.Translation and interpretation are about rendering concepts, not words, from the source to the target language. Vocabulary; grammar patterns; thought processes; business, legal and government systems, etc. can differ dramatically from one language to another. And some English words don’t exist in other languages and vice versa. The interpreter must be skilled in transmitting these concepts quickly, accurately and immediately between each language. And to do so requires many years of training and professional experience.
  2. Since a population is large, it should have many interpreters. Maybe. China has lots of linguists but most of them are poorly trained. Most Danes speak fluent English but few of them can translate or interpret well. Indians speak English, but most are not trained in specialized terminology such as Medicine and Law. The issue becomes qualifications and experience. Those interpreting specialized subjects for ten+ years become far more qualified than novices or laymen.
  3. Interpreters are all the same. No. Some are consecutive, simultaneous, court-certified, FBI- or State Department-certified, or serve very senior global executives. Others speak fluent Software, Healthcare or Agriculture. Each has different skills and specialties, just as lawyers do.Legal interpreters must be administratively certified to do depositions and court certified to do trials.Many languages such as Chinese, Hindi, Vietnamese, etc. have dialects that are incomprehensible between one region and another. Depending on the speaker, your trained professional interpreter must know the presented dialect and mimic the speaker’s tone using similar target-language slang, incorrect grammar or elegant speech as the speaker is using in the source language.
  4. The session should take a short time. In reality, consecutive interpretations – the speaker speaks and then pauses while the interpreter interprets — double the time of the planned session. A three-hour deposition can take six hours with interpretation.
  5. Interpreters are too expensive.  Lawyers think that they are worth $200-$500/hour or more. And like lawyers, cheap does not mean good.>What’s the cost to you if an interpreter renders the concepts incorrectly?>How many such mistakes can your case or meeting afford?Interpreters are trained professionals at the top of the Language world. Depending on scarcity, many command $85-$250/hour. And court-certified and simultaneous interpreters are at a premium because their training and skills are higher … no matter what the language.
  6. I can find an interpreter on my own. Maybe … if you know where to look; what to ask for; how to screen candidates; have the time not to do your normal job (which is a cost, not a savings); and how to draw up the contracts. That’s why professional language agencies have the expertise to assist, and can ensure that you get a qualified professional with the needed skills to match your assignment.


Interpreting is a highly specialized and qualified art which professionals take many years to study and perfect. Interpreters’ knowledge of your industry terminology also makes them more specialized … and expensive. Since their schedules can book up weeks in advance, it is best:

  • to schedule your session as early as possible;
  • know your needs and be open to an agency’s suggestions; and
  • to weigh the cost of getting it “cheap” vs. getting it right.